Pac-12: Ronnie Fouch

Quarterbacks come and go for a variety of reasons. Some simply aren't happy in a new state or in another part of the country. Others decide football isn't the sport for them. Many feel their talents are being wasted on the bench. It always seems like the grass is greener. Sometimes the move works out. Sometimes it doesn't.

Inspired by the move of Wes Lunt to leave Oklahoma State, the Pac-12 blog thought it would be fun to look back fondly at some of the quarterbacks who have left the conference following the 2008 season (a full four-year cycle). A special thanks to the league's sports information directors for helping compile this list and whatever information is available (which isn't the case with some players).

Here's the team-by-team breakdown of some of the recently departed signal callers no longer calling signals in the Pac-12.

Arizona
  • Tom Savage: Transferred to Pitt after the 2011 season. Eligible to play in 2013.
  • Cam Allerheiligen: Left after the 2011 season. Went on to play baseball at Weatherford College.
Arizona State
  • No QB transfers since 2008.
California
  • Beau Sweeney: Transferred after the 2010 season to Cornell. Appeared as a quarterback and TE/H-Back.
  • Allan Bridgford: Transferred after the 2012 season to Southern Miss.
Colorado
  • Matt Ballenger: Transferred after the 2008 season to College of Idaho and went on to be an all-conference basketball player.
  • Nick Hirschman: Transferred to Akron following the 2012 season.
Oregon
  • Chris Harper: Transferred to Kansas State after the 2008 season and became a wide receiver, leading the Wildcats in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns in 2011.
  • Justin Roper: Transferred to Montana after the 2008 season, completed 61.5 percent of his throws with 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2010.
  • Jeremiah Masoli: Transferred to Mississippi after the 2009 season. Is now with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.
  • Brennan Doty: (Walk-on) transferred to Lamar to play basketball.
  • Bryan Bennett: Transferred to Southeastern Louisiana after the 2012 season.
Oregon State
  • Justin Engstrom: Transferred to Portland State after the 2008 season. Was a backup.
  • Brennan Sim: Transferred to South Alabama after the 2008 season.
  • Peter Lalich: Transferred to California University of Pennsylvania after the 2009 season.
  • Ryan Katz: Transferred to San Diego State before the 2012 season and was the starter until an injury knocked him out for the year.
  • Jack Lomax: Left the team prior to the 2012 season.
Stanford
  • L.D. Crow: Transferred to UCF after the 2008 season.
  • Nick Ruhl: (Walk-on) transferred to Menlo College after the 2008 season. Returned to Stanford and graduated with two degrees.
  • Adam Brzeczek: (Walk-on) transferred to Montana after the 2011 season. Did not attempt a pass in 2012, but appeared in two games and rushed for 33 yards on three carries with a touchdown.
  • Brett Nottingham: Transferred to Columbia after the 2012 season.
UCLA
  • Chris Forcier: Transferred to Furman after the 2008 season.
  • Nick Crissman: Graduated in 2012, but intended to transfer to play one more year
USC
  • Aaron Corp: Transferred to Richmond after the 2009 season.
  • Jesse Scroggins: Trasnferred to El Camino Junior College after the 2011 season and has since joined Arizona.
Utah
  • Corbin Louks: Transferred to Nevada after the 2008 season.
  • Griff Robles: Transferred after the 2011 season to Dixie State College. Utah had converted Robles to a linebacker, but he wanted to play quarterback. Appeared in 11 games last year, completing 50.9 percent of his throws with 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
  • Tyler Shreve: Transferred to Riverside Community College after the 2011 season to play football and baseball.
Washington
  • Ronnie Fouch: Transferred to Indiana State after the 2009 season. Went on to start 22 games and posted 38 touchdowns to 15 interceptions with more than 4,300 passing yards in his career.
  • Nick Montana: Transferred to to Mt. San Antonio College after the 2011 season and is now at Tulane.
Washington State
  • J.T. Levenseller: Transferred to Eastern Washington after the 2008 season.
  • Cody Clements: Transferred to Cerritos College following the 2012 season.

The Pac-10's most irreplaceable players

June, 4, 2010
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ESPN's "College Football Live" is running down its list of the most irreplaceable players for the 2010 season. So we thought we'd take a stab at it for every Pac-10 team, including a different take for USC.

Arizona: C Colin Baxter. Centers are the quarterbacks of the offensive line, and Baxter is a good O-line QB. He earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2009 and his backup, sophomore Kyle Quinn, has little experience. With Baxter, the Wildcats should be strong up front. Without him, the line would be a question.

Thomas Weber
Icon SMIThomas Weber is 11-for-15 on field goals of 40 or more yards during his career.
Arizona State: K Thomas Weber. Weber, the 2007 Lou Groza Award winner, is a weapon when healthy. While his backup, sophomore Bobby Wenzig, didn't do a terrible job filling in for a hurt Weber last year -- he made 3 of 4 field goals and 10 of 12 PATs -- he's no Weber, who's 11-for-15 from 40 or more yards during his career. The Sun Devils may struggle again on offense next fall, which means that Weber's range will be critical for getting points on the board.

California: LB Mike Mohamed. Mohamed earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2009 after leading the conference with 112 tackles, 16 more than any other defender. The Bears are replacing two of their four starting linebackers and, oh by the way, they didn't play the position terribly well last fall. It would be a big hit to lose both Mohamed's skill as well as his experience and leadership.

Oregon: WR Jeff Maehl. With the demise of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, the Ducks likely will be a little more pass-happy next fall. That makes Maehl, the Ducks' best receiver, critical. He caught 53 passes for 696 yards and six touchdowns in 2009 and steadily improved throughout the season. The Ducks' next two returning receivers, D.J. Davis and Lavasier Tuinei, combined to catch 47 passes for 450 yards and two TDs.

Oregon State: RB Jacquizz Rodgers. It's not just that Rodgers is the conference's leading Heisman Trophy candidate. It's also about the Beavers' uncertain depth at the position. Jovan Stevenson and Ryan McCants combined for 164 yards rushing in 2009. Rodgers had 1,440. McCants turned in his best work yet this spring and the running game had its moments even without Rodgers, but let's just say the ground production likely would suffer -- big -- if Rodgers went down.

Stanford: QB Andrew Luck. Pretty obvious, eh? The Cardinal's offense is already replacing Toby Gerhart. It can't afford to lose Luck also and expect to compete in the top half of the Pac-10. Backups Josh Nunes and Robbie Picazo are both redshirt freshmen, though if Luck went down, it's possible senior Alex Loukas could move from safety back to QB, where he started one game in 2008.

Shareece Wright
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireThe Trojans are already replacing four starters in the secondary and can't afford to lose their best corner, Shareece Wright.
UCLA: LB Akeem Ayers. Ayers is an All-America candidate who has a knack for making big plays. If the Bruins' already-rebuilding defense lost him, it would then be replacing all three starting linebackers from 2009. His backup, Isaiah Bowens, is a redshirt freshman.

USC: CB Shareece Wright. Michael Lev of The Orange County Register already beat me to this one in his list of indispensable Trojans. Wright's career has been riddled by injuries and he was academically ineligible last year, but he's long been considered the Trojans' best cover corner. USC is replacing all four starters in its secondary. Wright has four career starts and was a standout this spring. If he went down, the Trojans would have one career start returning in the secondary. That is not a good thing.

Washington: QB Jake Locker. Locker is the Huskies' best player and their unquestioned leader. He's likely going to be a high first-round NFL draft pick next spring. But it's not just how important Locker is. Because last year's backup, Ronnie Fouch, opted to transfer, Locker's backup in 2010 will be either redshirt freshman Keith Price or true freshman Nick Montana. Neither, obviously, has any playing experience.

Washington State: DE Travis Long. Long, though just a sophomore, is the Cougars' best pass-rusher and best overall defensive lineman. After a year of getting bigger and stronger, he's expected to be much better in 2010. The Cougars' defensive line already lost tackles Toby Turpin, who was kicked out of school for an academic incident, and Josh Luapo (academic ineligibility) and is waiting to find out the academic status of tackle Bernard Wolfgramm. They are not deep enough up front to recover from the loss of Long. His backup, sophomore Adam Coerper, has no experience.

Washington spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
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Washington

2009 overall record: 5-7

2009 conference record: 4-5 (seventh)

Returning starters

Offense: 9, Defense: 7, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners: QB Jake Locker, RB Chris Polk, OT Senio Kelemete, WR Jermaine Kearse, WR Devin Aguilar, LB Mason Foster, CB Desmond Trufant

Key losses: FB Paul Homer, DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, LB Donald Butler

2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Chris Polk* (1,189)
Passing: Jake Locker* (2,800)
Receiving: Jermaine Kearse* (866)
Tackles: Donald Butler (94)
Sacks: Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (11)
Interceptions: Mason Foster* (3)

Spring Answers

1. There's depth at tailback: While sophomore Chris Polk, who rushed for 1,113 yards last year, sat out because he's still recovering from shoulder surgery, backups shined, starting with a pair of true freshmen who enrolled early: Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier. Toss in impressive efforts in the spring game from Johri Fogerson and Demitrius Bronson, and there are five tailbacks competing for touches.

2. The interior D-line should be tough: Senior Cameron Elisara saw time at end and tackle, which allowed Alameda Ta'amu, Tyrone Duncan and Semisi Tokolahi to show what they can do. Senior De'Shon Matthews and touted incoming freshman Sione Potoa'e also could be in the mix. Being able to rotate four or five reliable tackles is a luxury the Huskies defense hasn't had in recent years.

3. Uncertainty in the secondary is a good thing: Nate Williams will start at strong safety, and Desmond Trufant, who missed spring with a sports hernia, is almost certainly going to be one cornerback. After that, though, things are uncertain. The good news is that's about competition, not a lack of capable players. Redshirt freshman free safety Will Shamburger was one of the spring stars, while Quinton Richardson, Vonzell McDowell, Adam Long and Anthony Boyles are in the mix at corner.

Fall questions

1. Will the injured ends mend? The Huskies defense needs ends Everrette Thompson (torn Achilles) and Kalani Aldrich (knee) to be healthy in 2010. Both sat out spring practices with worrisome injuries. Both are expected back but it remains to be seen whether they will be 100 percent (or even close to it). Even though Elisara showed that he could play end, if needed, and Talia Crichton had a good spring, there's just not enough depth at the spot to be a top-level defense without them. It's possible a true freshman will see action here.

2. SAM I am? Mason Foster is an all-conference candidate on the weakside and Cort Dennison is solid in the middle. But who's the SAM -- strongside -- linebacker? Two former safeties, Alvin Logan and Victor Aiyewa, are candidates, though Aiyewa saw little action this spring due to a shoulder injury, as well as Matt Houston.

3. Who backs up Locker? After junior Ronnie Fouch opted to transfer, there are only two scholarship quarterbacks after Locker: true freshman Nick Montana and redshirt freshman Keith Price. Coach Steve Sarkisian has repeatedly said he's in no rush -- and not worried -- about his backup spot. Of course, the screws tighten a bit if Locker gets hurt.

Sarkisian meets with reporters

March, 29, 2010
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Some highlights from Washington Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian's presser with reporters on Monday.

  • Quarterback Jake Locker may play some baseball with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim this summer but a schedule has not been set. Sarkisian said it won't interfere with his football work.
  • Players who won't practice due to injury include running back Chris Polk (shoulder), offensive tackle Cody Habben (shoulder), defensive end Kalani Aldrich (knee), Everrette Thompson (Achilles), safety Victor Aiyewa (shoulder).
  • Running back Brandon Yakaboski (knee), cornerback Desmond Trufant (groin) and Justin Glenn (leg) will be limited.
  • Defensive end Andru Pulu is still suspended indefinitely and is not on the roster.
  • Tight end Dorson Boyce has moved to fullback.
  • Marquis Persley has moved from cornerback to safety.
  • Drew Schaefer has moved from tackle to center. Ryan Tolar from center to guard.
  • The starting offensive line as of Monday: Schaefer, Senio Kelemete at left tackle, Tolar at left guard, Mykenna Ikehara at right guard and Skyler Fancher at right tackle
  • Linebacker Alvin Logan could see action as a defensive end. Sarkisian said the lack of depth at end due to injuries and suspensions means that some other players, including defensive tackles, could see time at end.
  • Players who have left the program: quarterback Ronnie Fouch, running backs Willie Griffin and Curtis Shaw, linebacker Kurt Mangum, cornerback Matt Mosley and receiver Vince Taylor.
  • Four freshmen will participate this spring: linebacker Victor Burnett, running back Jesse Callier, running back Deontae Cooper and quarterback Nick Montana.
  • The priority is adding depth on the offensive and defensive line.
  • Sarkisian said he's interested to see how receiver D'Andre Goodwin and tight end Chris Izbicki perform. Goodwin was the Huskies best receiver in 2008 but fell behind other players in 2009. Izbicki is fighting for touches behind Kavario Middleton.
  • He also said that there should be plenty of competition in the secondary between cornerbacks Desmond Trufant, Adam Long, Quinton Richardson, Vonzell McDowell and converted receiver Anthony Boyles.

Opening the mailbag: Are recruiting rankings meaningful?

December, 18, 2009
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Everybody get my Christmas list?

To the notes.

JT from New York writes: Do you think the success of Utah, Cincinnati, Boise, and Oregon, and the fall of USC, Georgia, and Notre Dame, will put a damper on the star system for recruits and the overall ranking of recruiting classes? Seems that the emphasis placed on the incoming guys becomes less and less relevant (or relates less to success) every year given the season ending outcomes.

Ted Miller: Short answer: No.

Folks love reading about recruiting. They love ratings. They love the whole thing, even when they are complaining about it.

Any responsible recruiting guru will tell you that the "star system" is an inexact science, but measuring things in shades of gray is part of college football -- see the national polls and BCS system as a whole.

I also don't know if the recruiting rankings look that much different than the final polls. If you go here, you see a lot of Alabama, Texas, Florida, USC and other national powers.

If you're asking why schools that typically don't rank highly in recruiting seem to end up scattered throughout the national polls annually, there are a handful of explanations.

Evaluation: Some staffs are particularly good at projecting how a high school senior might develop physically over the next few years. They also seem to see the inner football player. Oregon State's Mike Riley would be a good example, as would Arizona's Mike Stoops.

Development: A good strength and conditioning program is critical, and nutritional guidance is often underrated. On the field, it's about assistant coaches who are superior teachers of fundamentals and technique. Often less highly rated guys take coaching better, too.

Coaching: A well-coached team can make up for talent deficiencies by outsmarting its opponent. I'd throw Brian Kelly and Chris Petersen into that pool and I suspect you could add Chip Kelly, though he's been a head coach for just one year. Those guys strike me as schematic savants. But coaching isn't just a big brain. It's also motivating and unifying a locker room. Again, that's Riley and also Jim Harbaugh and, though he's also a newbie, Washington's Steve Sarkisian.


Kai from Castro Valley, Calif., writes: The new thing in college football is to leave high school early and join college spring camp. What are your thoughts? Good or Bad decision?

Ted Miller: It's not really a new thing. I recall back in 1991 being among the throng who couldn't wait for super-recruit Eric Zeier, the pride of Marietta (Ga.) High School, to win the starting quarterback job of Georgia. But it seems like early-entry -- some call it "greenshirting" -- really became more popular over the past five or six years.

The reason players opt for early-entry is simple: They want to get their career started and showing up early might help them play sooner.

Quarterbacks, particularly, seem to want to get a head start with the playbook and coaching -- see Philip Rivers, John David Booty (who skipped his entire senior year of high school), Tim Tebow, Matthew Stafford, Matt Barkley, Richard Brehaut, etc.

The oft-cited downside: What about enjoying your senior year of high school? Why skip a step growing up?

That's not invalid, though it might be a tad sentimental.

To me it comes down to this: What's right for the young man and his family?

If a player is that focused on football and getting his career started, then there's no reason for him to spend his final months of high school trying to figure out when everybody's parents are going out of town so they can throw a righteous house party.

Also, there are a number of advantages for the student-athlete: He gets more bang for his buck on scholarship -- it's a free semester. And it also gives a young man a chance test drive the school and program before he gets lost in a crowd of 25 or so incoming players.

This is a nice story on the topic by the LA Times' David Wharton.


Mike from Seattle writes: After reading your post on the pac-10 quarterbacks returning next year I found myself wondering who is the deepest?

Ted Miller: That's tough to evaluate, but here are the backup situations (class standing is for 2010).

Arizona: Junior Matt Scott. He started three games last year, so he's not completely green.

Arizona State: Both junior Samson Szakacsy and sophomore Brock Osweiler saw significant playing time in 2009. Michigan transfer Steven Threat, a junior, started eight games in 2008. One of those three will start.

California: Neither sophomore Beau Sweeney nor junior Brock Mansion have seen significant action.

Oregon: Senior Nate Costa and sophomore Darron Thomas are a solid tandem with some game experience.

Oregon State: Sophomore Ryan Katz and junior Peter Lalich will compete to replace Sean Canfield this spring.

Stanford: Redshirt freshmen Josh Nunes and Robbie Picazo will be very green behind Andrew Luck.

UCLA: Sophomores Richard Brehaut and Nick Crissman will start spring behind sophomore Kevin Prince on the depth chart. Brehaut threw 17 passes in 2009, Crissman two.

USC: Junior Aaron Corp and senior Mitch Mustain will backup sophomore Matt Barkley, unless one opts to transfer.

Washington: Junior Ronnie Fouch stepped in for an injured Jake Locker in 2008, though things didn't go well. Redshirt freshman Keith Price and incoming freshman Nick Montana also are in the mix.

Washington State: Junior Marshall Lobbestael figures to be sophomore Jeff Tuel's primary backup.


Kevin from Fullerton, Calif., writes: What do you think about the Beavs playing TCU next year along with Louisville and at BSU? Yikes! Not a great schedule for starting fast. I'm excited because those are all great games, but I'm just not confident the Beavs can win big, early OOC games.

Ted Miller: It's great that Oregon State is giving college football fans games that they can get excited about. Both Boise State and TCU probably will start out next year ranked in the top-10, and Oregon State also figures to be ranked in the preseason, perhaps even in the top-15.

Now, we all know that Oregon State has started slowly in recent years, but the 2010 squad will be veteran at just about every position other than quarterback. So the Beavers may be more in sync early.

Win these games, and the Beavers could launch a special season. And, even if they lose, they will have plenty of ranked teams in the Pac-10 they can crawl over as they make their typical late-season run back into the national polls.

Still, it's a brutal slate, particularly playing TCU in Texas and Boise on the blue turf. And some folks still will sniff over TCU and Boise State not being BCS conference teams, no matter where they are ranked. Losing to, say, a 15th-ranked Penn State squad still doesn't carry as much downside as losing to a No. 6 Boise State team.

Please, that's not my idea. Just the way it is.

If I were the Oregon State athletic director, I wouldn't have scheduled these games. If I were an AD, I'd always go with an A, B, C scheduling philosophy, with "A" being a marquee game with a BCS conference foe, a "B" game vs. a solid team -- not a Boise State or TCU -- and always at home and a "C" game with a patsy.

Still, it's hard to raise too much hell about matching up against two ranked programs during the early-season. I can't wait to watch both those games.


Aaron from "SEC country" writes: Maybe the Pac-10 is generally the #1 conference. When you look at the map, they should be! Where the SEC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12 and ACC - 55 of the 65 AQ schools - are all either contiguous or co-located and must compete with each other for players and exposure, other than outlier Colorado the Pac-10 is the only game in town west of Texas.Example: the SEC. 4 of 9 SEC states are shared with ACC and Big East schools (i.e. Florida, which has 2 ACC schools and a Big East school). The SEC East borders ACC and Big East country to the north and east and Big 10 country to the north. The SEC West borders the Big 12 and Big 10 to the north and west. So, programs like Miami, FSU, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Louisville, Missouri and Cincinnati compete directly with the SEC for players, coaches and media attention. Whatever obstacles the Pac-10 has, that sort of direct competition is not among them!Meanwhile, the Pac-10 has a whole 1/4 of the country to itself! So, the question must be asked: isn't the Pac-10 doing a better job of exploiting this clear advantage?

Ted Miller: Maybe.

First, I would direct you to this map of U.S. population density.

Second, I think some of the Pac-10 blog readers would say, "You had me at your first sentence."

Huskies persevered in 2009, but will Locker return in 2010?

December, 8, 2009
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Washington coach Steve Sarkisian reviewed his first season Tuesday and he felt that the Huskies final touchdown drive in the season-opener against LSU operated in some ways as a metaphor for the program's growth.

The Huskies dominated that game statistically but still lost 31-23, their final tally as the clock struck zero being mostly an exercise in perseverance.

Of course, that's a quality the program lacked under Tyrone Willingham. The fact that the Huskies played their best football while winning their final two games over Washington State and California by a combined count of 72-10 after they could no longer earn a bowl berth shows that the team persevered even without the motivation of a post-season reward.

"[That showed] we were going to play hard for 60 minutes of football," Sarkisian said. "I think our fans appreciated that drive."

Know what Huskies fans would really appreciate? Quarterback Jake Locker coming back for his senior year.

With Locker, the 2010 Huskies look like a threat to earn a bowl berth and might even get a few votes in the preseason polls.

Without him? Who knows?

That's why Locker's status dominated the news conference instead of a general review of the football program.

Sarkisian said Locker already filed his papers with the NFL Advisory Committee, which will tell Locker that he likely will be a first-round pick this spring if he enters the draft. Sarkisian said he met with Locker Monday to discuss the process, and a final decision probably won't come until next month. The deadline to declare for the NFL draft is Jan. 15.

"He's going to do his due-diligence; he's going to take his time; and he's going to make a decision based on facts and proper information rather than emotion," said Sarkisian, who added that he is "very optimistic" Locker might decide to return.

When a reporter asked why he was optimistic, Sarkisian said "that's just the way I think."

If Locker doesn't return, backup Ronnie Fouch, a rising junior, could become an interesting story.

In 2008, Fouch stepped in for an injured Locker and put up woeful numbers. He completed just 45 percent of his passes with 13 interceptions and four touchdowns. Of course, it was a nearly impossible situation trying to lead a rudderless program, and Sarkisian has repeatedly praised Fouch's improvement.

He said with or without Locker, the Huskies will be aiming for a bowl game in 2010.

"I think our football program is headed in the right direction," he said.

Locker nursing thigh bruise

November, 2, 2009
11/02/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Washington quarterback Jake Locker is nursing a deep thigh bruise that might sideline him for the Huskies' game at UCLA on Saturday.

Coach Steve Sarkisian said Locker was "day to day."

"We're not going to force him back onto the field if he's not healthy and ready to go," Sarkisian said. "I would anticipate that he would be but it remains day to day."

Locker, who suffered the thigh bruise in the first quarter against Oregon on Oct. 24, was limited during bye week practices. He said he felt "pretty good" on Monday.

"I should be ready to go," Locker said.

Sophomore Ronnie Fouch is Locker's backup. Fouch started eight games last year after Locker suffered a season-ending thumb injury. Fouch completed 45 percent of his passes with 13 interceptions and four touchdowns.

"I think Ronnie can go in and perform very well," Sarkisian said.

Sarkisian also said linebacker E.J. Savannah, who had surgery on a broken hand, is "very doubtful."

The game is critical to the Huskies' and Bruins' bowl hopes. Both are 3-5 overall and need to win three of their last four games to earn bowl eligibility.

Washington hasn't beaten UCLA in the Rose Bowl since 1995.

Got your back? A look at backup QBs in the Pac-10

October, 2, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


The backup quarterback is just a bruised shoulder or broken jaw away from taking over the most critical position on the field -- just ask USC or UCLA.

There's already been plenty of quarterback movement in the conference -- injuries, depth chart changes, etc. -- so it seemed like a good time to see where the Pac-10 QB depth stands.

Ready to roll

Lyle Moevao, Oregon State: Heck, it's hard to even call Moevao a backup to Sean Canfield, who was Moevao's backup last year. Moevao owns an 11-4 record as a starter and is only on the bench because he's still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.

Tavita Pritchard, Stanford: Pritchard is not going to play in the NFL, but he's a smart and experienced quarterback who started 19 games before being beaten out by talented redshirt freshman Andrew Luck. By the way, his first start was a win over USC.

Matt Scott, Arizona: He started the first three games this season but lost his job to Nick Foles after a poor performance at Iowa. Still, the sophomore has enough experience that if Foles went down the Wildcats wouldn't go into panic mode.

Marshall Lobbestael, Washington State: He started three games last year before a knee injury ended his season and two games this year before coach Paul Wulff opted to go with true freshman Jeff Tuel. He's battle tested, so if he's called upon again, it won't be like he's being fed to the wolves.

Nate Costa, Oregon: Before the 2008 season, Costa was the touted heir-apparent to Dennis Dixon. Then he blew out his knee -- for a second time. A healthy Costa is a nice backup plan for Jeremiah Masoli. And No. 3 Darron Thomas is no slouch -- he nearly led a comeback against Boise State in 2008.

Has the hype

Brock Osweiler, Arizona State: Folks around the Sun Devils program were so excited about the mature, 6-foot-8 Montana native that many thought he'd beat out senior Danny Sullivan for the starting job. The true freshman still might be a factor this season.

Mitch Mustain/Aaron Corp: Corp was the starter coming out of spring. Mustain practically disappeared until reemerging this week as Matt Barkley's potential backup. Both were prep All-Americans. Mustain was good enough to go 8-0 in the SEC at Arkansas, but offenses are more complex in the Pac-10.

Richard Brehaut, UCLA: The true freshman competed -- briefly -- for the starting job during spring practices and was listed as the backup until starter Kevin Prince went down with a broken jaw and coaches opted to go with the more experienced senior Kevin Craft. Brehaut was a top-100 prospect in 2008 and offensive coordinator Norm Chow was supposedly quite taken by his potential. When Prince returns, UCLA would change categories to "Ready to Roll," unless of course Craft implodes at Stanford on Saturday and falls back to No. 3.

Who knows?

Beau Sweeney, California: Sweeney, a redshirt freshman, recently eclipsed sophomore Brock Mansion on the depth chart. He's got great bloodlines. His father, Kevin, was a record-setting QB at Fresno State who had a cup of coffee in the NFL. His grandfather, Jim, was a highly respected college head coach, with tenures at Washington State and Fresno State. But Beau Sweeney hasn't seen any significant game action.

Ronnie Fouch, Washington: New Washington coach Steve Sarkisian went out of his way all through the preseason to praise Fouch, who struggled mightily when he came off the bench to replace an injured Jake Locker for the final eight games last year. He threw 13 picks with just four TDs and was sacked 123 times, plus or minus. But circumstances were awful last season, and Fouch got little support. It's hard to say what kind of player he would be if called upon this season.

Ranking the Pac-10 quarterbacks

August, 25, 2009
8/25/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Who's set at quarterback with a present and/or future star? And who's got reasons for concern.

Our take.

Oregon: If you watched the final three games of 2008, you know why Jeremiah Masoli is No. 1. Moreover, Chip Kelly is still calling plays, and there's intriguing depth behind Masoli in Nate Costa and Darron Thomas.
Washington: Point out the injury that ended his 2008 season after four games, or his lackluster completion percentage, but know that Jake Locker scares defensive coordinators. And early returns are he and Steve Sarkisian might make beautiful music together. Backup Ronnie Fouch has looked much better during the preseason.
Oregon State: Ideally, the Beavers have two proven, experienced senior quarterbacks, but Lyle Moevao's slow recovery from shoulder surgery shakes that enviable position a bit. Still, Sean Canfield has looked good since the spring and so have the young guys behind him.
California: Kevin Riley has the experience and the ability. Now it's time for him to prove he can be a good quarterback for an entire season. Brock Mansion and Beau Sweeney played well enough to push Riley and reassure coach Jeff Tedford that he has alternatives if Riley falters.
USC: In terms of talent, USC ranks higher than fifth. But the Trojans still haven't figured out who the lead dog is between Aaron Corp and true freshman Matt Barkley, and neither has any real game experience.
Stanford: First, this higher-than-expected ranking is about touted redshirt freshman Andrew Luck, who has generated only positive reviews since spring practices. Second, his backup, Tavita Pritchard, has started 19 games, so that's a nice security blanket.
Arizona State: On the one hand, Danny Sullivan is a senior. On the other, he has no quality game experience -- at least any game experience that would inspire confidence. Still, he's done one thing that matters: He left no doubt who the Sun Devils best quarterback is during the preseason.
Arizona: This ranking would have been higher up until Saturday, when expected starter Matt Scott struggled in a scrimmage that was set up to be his coming-out party. That opened the door for Nick Foles, and now the two sophomores are in a dead-heat. Coach Mike Stoops says he likes both guys and may play both, but he'd like it better if one would win the job.
UCLA: The Bruins are going to sink or swim with redshirt freshman Kevin Prince, whom offensive coordinator Norm Chow loves, but has yet to perform with consistency in scrimmages. If Prince struggles, it will be interesting to see if Chow turns to last year's forgotten starter, Kevin Craft, or freshmen Richard Brehaut or Nick Crissman.
Washington State: Both senior Kevin Lopina and sophomore Marshall Lobbestael have experience, but the Cougars passing offense ranked last in the Pac-10 with 146 yards per game in 2008 and quarterbacks threw 21 interceptions and just six touchdown passes.

Got backup? Ranking the Pac-10 backup QBs

May, 27, 2009
5/27/09
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

They are just a twisted knee or rung bell away from running your team's offense, so backup quarterback is not a position to just shrug about.

Ask Oregon fans. Before Saturday, they had a backup quarterback with significant experience who'd led a 2007 Sun Bowl victory and looked great in the spring game. Now Justin Roper is headed elsewhere, opting to transfer instead of backing up Jeremiah Masoli, and suddenly Masoli's physical running style feels a lot riskier.

Of course, ranking backups is tough. Does experience matter most? Because a few backups have lots of experience -- the bad kind.

Obviously from our list, we decided that experience is critical. My guess is some of you will howl about that.

So who will be holding their breath every time their quarterback dashes from the pocket? Here's a look.

1. Oregon State: Sean Canfield or Lyle Moevao? Lyle Moevao or Sean Canfield? It doesn't matter because the Beavers not only have two quarterbacks with significant starting experience, they have two quarterbacks who are good.

2. Stanford: It appears that the Cardinal will go with redshirt freshman Andrew Luck as the starter, which means 19-game starter Tavita Pritchard is a quality backup.

3. Oregon: Despite Roper's defection, the Ducks aren't in too much trouble here, particularly if Nate Costa -- the projected 2008 starter -- comes back healthy in the fall. Sophomore Darron Thomas is the quarterback of the future and looked good in the limited action he saw last year, including an inspired effort against Boise State.

4. USC: True freshman Matt Barkley is officially the backup, but I'm not so sure that Mitch Mustain wouldn't be the guy if Aaron Corp went down with an injury at Ohio State. Mustain saw a lot of action as a true freshman at Arkansas. And if it is Barkley, he's a big-time talent with a lot of poise.

5. California: We're not supposed to know who the backup is as the competition between Kevin Riley and Brock Mansion is officially ongoing. The fact Jeff Tedford won't say that Riley is his starter probably speaks to Tedford's belief that Brock Mansion is a pretty good talent.

6. UCLA: Much like USC, UCLA is listing a true freshman (Richard Brehaut) as Kevin Prince's backup. And, much like I wrote about USC, my guess is that Kevin Craft would be the guy if Prince went down. Craft set a school record with 20 interceptions last year, but he also led the Bruins to comeback wins over Tennessee and Stanford. That counts for something.

7. Washington State: Assuming that Marshall Lobbestael comes back healthy and wins the starting job, as expected, that makes senior Kevin Lopina, who started eight games in 2008, the backup. The experience is nice, but Lopina threw 11 interceptions and zero touchdown passes, which is not so nice. He did have one shining moment: His 48-yard pass to Jared Karstetter in final minute of the Apple Cup led to game-tying field goal, and the Cougars went on to win in overtime.

8. Washington: Sophomore Ronnie Fouch looked overmatched when he was forced into action last year when Jake Locker went down. He completed only 45 percent of his passes with 13 interceptions and four touchdowns, and ended up the Pac-10's lowest-rated quarterback. He, however, looked better this spring.

9. Arizona: Matt Scott owns a slight lead over Nick Foles heading into the summer. While neither has started a game, both have at least seen the field. Scott accounted for three touchdowns in 2008, while Foles threw eight passes for Michigan State in 2007. Not sure Arizona coaches would trade either for the more experienced backups we've listed ahead of the Wildcats here.

10. Arizona State: Sophomore Samson Szakacsy is a good athlete, and Sun Devils insiders are excited about true freshman Brock Osweiler, but neither has played a down of college football. Szakacsy was No. 2 coming out of spring. Osweiler could challenge him in the fall, but the guess here is he'll redshirt. Of course, one or the other also could push senior Danny Sullivan for the starting job, too.

Washington spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:05
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Washington Huskies
2008 overall record: 0-12

2008 conference record: 0-9

Returning starters

Offense 8, defense 10, kicker/punter 0

Top returners

QB Jake Locker, WR D'Andre Goodwin, DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, LB E.J. Savannah, S Nate Williams, LB Mason Foster

Key losses

C Juan Garcia, CB Mesphin Forrester

2008 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Terrence Dailey (338)
Passing: Ronnie Fouch* (1,339)
Receiving: D'Andre Goodwin* (692)
Tackles: Mason Foster (105)
Sacks: Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (8)
Interceptions: Mesphin Forrester (2)

2009 Schedule
Sep. 5 LSU
Sep. 12 Idaho
Sep. 19 USC
Sep. 26 at Stanford
Oct. 3 at Notre Dame
Oct. 10 Arizona
Oct. 17 at Arizona State
Oct. 24 Oregon
Nov. 7 at UCLA
Nov. 14 at Oregon State
Nov. 28 Washington State
Dec. 5 California

Spring answers

1. Locker on target: Quarterback Jake Locker has been dogged by questions about his passing accuracy. He answered them during spring, particularly in the spring game when he completed 16 of 18 throws and the two incompletions were drops. If Locker, with his running ability, can complete more than 60 percent of his passes, the Huskies offense will make a dramatic turnaround from its woeful 2008.

2. Savannah brings it: E.J. Savannah, banished without sufficient explanation by Tyrone Willingham, was brought back this spring by new coach Steve Sarkisian and his contribution should be a huge upgrade to what looks like a solid corps of linebackers. Savannah had 111 tackles in 2007 and will bolster the confidence of a defense that was stunningly soft in 2008.

3. Might run OK: The Huskies' offensive line was supposed to be a strength last season, but it looked fat and plodding and struggled against quick front sevens. A new strength program aimed at slimming the hogs down, combined with some intriguing talent at tailback -- freshmen Chris Polk and Demitrius Bronson stood out -- suggests that Locker won't be the only weapon in the ground game.

Fall questions

1. Does experience mean better? The good news is the Huskies welcome back 18 starters. The bad news is the Huskies welcome back 18 starters. That's the only way to look at a team that went 0-12 the year before. There are reasons for optimism -- Locker; a new, high-energy coaching staff; etc. -- but Huskies fans have seen their optimism crushed under the spiked heel of reality before.

2. Secondary issues: The Huskies pass defense was terrible last year, ranking 115th in the nation and last among BCS programs. Opponents completed 67 percent of their passes, 24 of which went for touchdowns and just seven were intercepted. Quinton Richardson is set at one corner, and strong safety Nate Williams is solid, but free safety and the other cornerback spot are wide open heading into the fall.

3. Kicking and punting: The Huskies must replace both starting specialists. Erik Folk, a scholarship kicker, has had injury problems but, if healthy, should win the job. Since there are no scholarship punters, fingers are crossed that incoming JC transfer Will Mahan will be the man this fall.

Will someone put the Huskies out of their misery?

October, 25, 2008
10/25/08
9:50
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Here's my penetrating halftime analysis on Notre Dame's visit to Washington.

Notre Dame's general "OKness" is significantly augmented and transformed into relative impressiveness by Washington abject terribleness.

Boom goes the dynamite!

Notre Dame leads 17-zip. Notre Dame has 238 total yards and 14 first downs. Washington has 38 yards and three first downs.

Notre Dame isn't even playing well. Jimmy Clausen's numbers are bad (9-of-21 for 134 yards with a TD and INT), but they, of course, look good compared to Washington quarterback Ronnie Fouch (1-9 for five yards).

Chance of a Washington comeback?

Zero.

Husky fans: I feel for you.

What to watch in the Pac-10, Week 8

October, 17, 2008
10/17/08
9:55
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Ten things to consider, underline or anticipate heading into the weekend.

1. Dear Arizona -- Get the ball to Rob Gronkowski and Mike Thomas: What does a dominating running game do for a team? Well, it wasn't just that Stanford had 286 yards rushing last weekend in its win over Arizona, it was that it ran 72 total plays vs. 57 for the Wildcats. What could a team do with 15 more plays? A lot. But if you only have 57, more than six of them should involve tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Mike Thomas.

2. Nate Longshore needs to grab hold of Cal's quarterback spot: California would love to run right at Arizona like Stanford did, but the Bears are down two starting offensive linemen and struggled just two weeks ago to get the running game going at home against Arizona State (79 yards on the ground). While it will help to get speedy Jahvid Best back, he's not going to give Cal 25 carries coming back from a dislocated elbow. That means Nate Longshore, making his second consecutive start, will need to make plays in the passing game. It doesn't help that receiver Michael Calvin was lost for the year this week to a knee injury. But Longshore should be plenty motivated to erase the three-interception performance he had in Tucson in 2006, an upset defeat that cost the Bears their first Rose Bowl berth since 1958.

3. How much does Washington still care?: The Huskies' players don't live in caves. They know that their fan base is hollering for coach Tyrone Willingham's coaching noggin'. They also can look at the guy under center and know he's no longer their leader, Jake Locker, who's done for the year with a thumb injury. While last season's bitter defeat at Oregon State should serve as motivation to play hard in front of the home fans, it will be interesting to see if the Huskies fight all four quarters if things start to get out of hand. And what if the Beavers jump on them early? Will a white flag come out?

4. Beavers stop the pass, own the field: Washington senior guard Casey Bulyca, who rivals center Juan Garcia as the Huskies most physical player, underwent knee surgery Tuesday and is done for the year. The line has been mostly mediocre this year, in any event. The Huskies don't really have a starting tailback, with Willie Griffin, Brandon Johnson and Terrance Dailey shuffling in and out. Locker, the best run threat, is, again, out. The Huskies average 2.9 yards per rush, and Oregon State's run defense has improved dramatically since yielding 239 yards at Penn State. This means it's up to UW quarterback Ronnie Fouch and his young receivers to make plays. But the Beavers likely will welcome the pass because safety Al Afalava and cornerbacks Brandon Hughes and Keenan Lewis are back to full speed after nursing injuries previous weeks.

5. USC will not be at full speed at Washington State: USC is banged up and it might make sense for coach Pete Carroll to lean toward caution with players who are borderline-ready to play at Washington State. Running back Joe McKnight (toe) won't make the trip. Neither will defensive end Everson Griffen and offensive lineman Butch Lewis (both are sick). Offensive guards Jeff Byers (knee) and Zack Heberer (toe), linebackers Brian Cushing (shoulder) and Kaluka Maiava (foot) and tight end Blake Ayles (groin) also missed significant practice time this week.

6. Don't hold the ball, Kevin Lopina: A team (hopefully) never expects to lose, but Washington State's prime directive is to get quarterback Kevin Lopina safely through USC's visit. Lopina is making his first start since going down with a back injury on Sept. 20 against Portland State, and the Cougars have a bye next week for him to further get his health, rhythm and timing back. The Trojans put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, often with just a four-man rush. Lopina needs to get the ball away in a hurry. That means three-step drops, roll outs, a two count and throw -- heave the ball into the stands if necessary. Just don't give up the sack, the INT or get hurt. The Cougars Nos. 2 and 3 quarterbacks are done for the season, and the guys next in line are a walk-on and a true freshman, so they really need Lopina to keep taking snaps.

7. Can Stanford run up the middle on UCLA?: Stanford has become the Pac-10's most physical running team. Running back Toby Gerhart is a 230-pound guy who's not afraid of contact, and the Cardinal line, led by center Alex Fletcher, has been the conference's best unit to this point of the season. But UCLA has perhaps the conference's best defensive tackle tandem in Brian Price and Brigham Harwell. Can Fletcher and his guards move these guys out of the way? The going should be far tougher up the middle, though the Bruins haven't been dominant against the run this year by any means, ranking eighth in the Pac-10 with 171 yards given up per game.

8. UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft needs to put four quarters together: Stanford is going to gang up on the run and try to force Craft to win the game. For much of the season, the Cardinal secondary looked vulnerable, but last weekend it did a masterful job containing Arizona's top targets, Rob Gronkowski and Mike Thomas, and didn't allow quarterback Willie Tuitama to throw a touchdown pass. Stanford also brings a lot of blitzes (see 19 sacks on the season). Craft has had fits and starts of success, and he seems to go in and out of rhythm throughout a game. He was sacked six times by Oregon and he threw a lot of ill-advised passes that were dropped by Ducks defenders. If the Bruins are going to defend their home turf, Craft needs to make plays consistently.

9. The solution for Arizona -- Stop the run: Arizona has lost twice this season. In both games, a power back ran all over the Wildcats undersized defense. But Cal doesn't have a Rodney Ferguson (New Mexico, 158 yards) or a Toby Gerhart (116 yards), who both tip the scales at 230 pounds. If the Wildcats force the Bears to throw into a secondary that is the defense's strength that will help in multiple ways. Not only will it ease the pressure on the defensive front, it also will stop the clock more often and allow the potent Arizona offen
se to get more plays.

10. Can any Pac-10 teams win on the road?: Pac-10 teams are 6-20 on the road this year -- 2-8 in nonconference play and 4-12 in conference. While Washington and Washington State have proved hospitable for obvious reasons -- stinking -- the rest of the Pac-10 has treated guests with disdain. Stanford and California are both looking to move up in the conference pecking order, but in order to do that they will have to prove they can win on the road someplace other than Washington or Washington State.

Pac-10 power rankings

October, 6, 2008
10/06/08
9:52
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Sorting out the Pac-10 pecking order after six weeks:

1. USC: The Trojans reasserted their dominance with a blowout win over Oregon. The question remaining is can they play to their potential every week? And, if so, will that get them back to the national title game? Up next: Arizona State

2. California: The quarterback switch worked in that Nate Longshore led the Bears to a key conference victory over Arizona State. But the Bears' offense is still looking to find its rhythm. Fortunately for them, the defense is catching on. Up next: A bye week.

3. Oregon: For a quarter and a half, the Ducks looked like every bit the Trojans' match. Then the deluge. The defensive scheme puts a lot of pressure on the secondary, and the Ducks' defensive backs couldn't match up with the USC receivers. Up next: UCLA.

4. Oregon State: The Beavers beat Utah. And then they didn't. For all the good things they've shown this season, including the red-letter win over USC, they presently sit at 2-3. Up next: Washington State.

5. Arizona: Every game is important for a team scrambling to earn its bona fides, but the Wildcats' biggest game of the year may be Saturday at Stanford. A fifth win with six games remaining would virtually guarantee bowl eligibility -- Washington State is still on the slate -- but a loss means the Wildcats head into the toughest part of their schedule with a lot of work left.

6. Arizona State: The Sun Devils, at 2-3, are starting to look like a team that belongs in the bottom half of the conference pecking order, and they will be if Rudy Carpenter's sprained ankle sidelines him.

7. Stanford: Stanford, now 3-3, enters a critical run for its bowl hopes with three winnable games ahead: Arizona, at UCLA and Washington State. Those three games will either separate the Cardinal from the bottom third of the conference or again relegate them to it.

8. UCLA: Can the Bruins win on the road? If they want to move up they must, because four of the next six are on the road, starting at Oregon on Saturday.

9. Washington: Washington finally gets some good news: It's not playing this weekend. Any hopes that new quarterback Ronnie Fouch would create a Cinderella story for the Huskies and embattled coach Tyrone Willingham evaporated quickly in the desert last weekend.

10. Washington State: If there was something positive to take from the 28-3 loss to UCLA, it's that the Cougars looked competitive through the first quarter. They figure to run into a fairly grumpy bunch of Beavers at Oregon State on Saturday.

What to watch in the Pac-10, Week 6

October, 3, 2008
10/03/08
8:57
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Ten things to consider, underline or anticipate heading into the weekend.

1. We should know fairly quickly if USC solved its run defense problems: What stood out more than anything in the Trojans loss to Oregon State was their poor run defense, with true freshman Jacquizz Rodgers rushing for 186 yards and USC's defensive linemen and linebackers struggling to get off blocks. Oregon is the nation's No. 4 rushing team and its passing game is still trying to find its rhythm with juco-transfer quarterback Jeremiah Masoli running the show. Ergo: The Ducks will immediately challenge the Trojans up front.

2. Who will start at quarterback for California and what will it mean?: Coming off a 42-7 victory in which your quarterback doesn't throw an interception is a curious time to renew a quarterback competition, but that's just what Bears coach Jeff Tedford did. And based on news reports this week, both sophomore starter Kevin Riley and senior challenger Nate Longshore -- who started 26 games before losing out to Riley -- practiced well, with neither surging ahead or falling behind. So Tedford said he'd wait until pregame warmups to announce who will start against Arizona State. How much of this is gamesmanship, and how much of an advantage does this garner Cal, if any? Here's a guess that the tag goes to the incumbent, and Riley remains the starter, with Longshore seeing spot action, which was the plan entering the season.

3. As usual, Rudy, not the run game, will be the key for Arizona State: Dennis Erickson said the Sun Devils need to run the ball more, period. The return of running back Keegan Herring from a nagging hamstring injury should help the Sun Devils sagging (110th in the nation) ground attack. But that won't change the basic fact that quarterback Rudy Carpenter is Arizona State's centerpiece, its singular star who will determine this team's fate almost every week. The speedy Herring might break a run or two for a big gain, but the Sun Devils will live or die by the pass in this game and the rest of the season.

4. Washington's new quarterback Ronnie Fouch won't wilt at Arizona: Don't be shocked if the Huskies offense puts up some points against the Wildcats with Fouch, a redshirt freshman, making his first start on the road after Jake Locker was lost to a broken thumb. Fouch has looked solid in limited action and seems confident in his abilities. More than a few folks have noted that he's already a more accurate passer than Locker. He might inject energy into a sagging team that may, in fact, be grateful to be away from its unhappy home fans.

5. Notre Dame will attack Stanford's secondary: Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen is rapidly improving and is developing timing with his young, talented receiving corps. Stanford's secondary is mediocre at best -- it allows opponents to complete 65 percent of their passes -- so the Cardinal will rely on pressure to keep Clausen in check. Stanford is second in the Pac-10 with three sacks a game, and the Fighting Irish offensive line is still figuring things out. But if Clausen gets time on his home field, he'll pick the Cardinal apart.

6. Rick Neuheisel's UCLA honeymoon will end if the Bruins lose: Neuheisel talked about noticeable improvement in the Bruins loss to Fresno State, but moral victories don't inspire a fanbase. And losing at home to the Cougars, a bad team even before it became a M.A.S.H unit, could cause some early grumbling in our win-now-or-else culture. UCLA should win going away. They should run right at the Cougars sagging defense and pressure redshirt freshman quarterback Marshall Lobbestael into making mistakes as he makes his first start on the road. Most of the schedule will be an uphill slog for the Bruins, so they shouldn't treat a rare weekend as a favorite as a time to relax.

7. Arizona should score 50: Arizona had a bye week to prepare for Jake Locker, and now they don't even have to deal with the annoyance of a running quarterback who can play keep-away from the Wildcats potent offense. And that offense will be rested and reloaded as it faces one of the nation's worst defenses. Tight end Rob Gronkowski figures to be completely back to form after missing the first three games with mono. Also, receiver Terrell Reese returns from a suspension, giving quarterback Willie Tuitama another option in the Wildcats potent spread attack.

8. Who will lead USC's tailback-by-committee this week?: Joe McKnight had emerged as first among equals in USC's crowded running back depth chart, but then he fumbled and was mostly ineffective in the loss to Oregon State. This past week, Allen Bradford, who had fallen off the radar, expressed frustration to coach Pete Carroll about his lack of carries. More than a few observers piped in that Stafon Johnson is being underused. And C.J. Gable remains the most complete back the Trojans have. The chatter won't matter if USC runs for 200-plus yards and rolls to victory -- success has always been Pete Carroll's justification for trying to distribute the ball among so many talented backs without establishing a consistent pecking order. But another meandering performance by the offense, particularly the rushing attack, might force a philosophy change.

9. Cal's offense won't be worse without Best: Well, of course, there will be some dropoff without the playmaking of speedy Jahvid Best, who's expected to return from a dislocated elbow on Oct. 18 at Arizona. But Shane Vereen is pretty fancy, too. Sure, Best has two 80-yard touchdown runs, but Vereen has an 81-yarder to his credit and he went 39 yards for another score for good measure. Vereen is averaging 69.8 yards rushing per game and a stout eight yards per carry. He also has 10 catches for 44 yards, so, like Best, he's also a good receiver. If Arizona State's defense exhales
because it doesn't see Best in the backfield, that could be a critical mistake.

10. This is Washington State's best chance for a Pac-10 win, at least until the Apple Cup: UCLA should beat the Cougars. The Bruins also should have beaten the Cougars last year, but Washington State won 27-7, a game that became a significant nail in then-Bruins coach Karl Dorrell's coffin. UCLA is prone to distraction. It may look at the schedule and yawn. Moreover, the Rose Bowl is hardly a hostile environment these days, so redshirt freshman quarterback Marshall Lobbestael might not be overwhelmed in his first road start. The Cougars may, in fact, benefit from being on the road, considering they lost by an average of 56 points in their first two conference home games. This might not qualify as an upset alert, but it won't be written very often this season that Washington State actually has a shot to win.

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